The Landing, Gallipoli by Mabel Forrest

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The moon was like a silver bowl from which the lovely night could drink, 
At slowly we steamed up the Straits; a sailor's laugh, a glass's clink,
And then "Lights out" and dusk -- to muse on dawning rocking in the stream.
A red thread in the silver wool that wove the pageant of each dream. 

"A light on shore!" To one it seemed a diamond on a woman's wrist
On some white arm his boyish lips for the last time on earth had kist.
To some it was a star to light the way that Heaven's glory shows,
To some an alter candle -- or the dew -- drop on a waking rose.

"Lower the boats!" The moon has waned -- the brown Australians took their stand
Behind the twelve inch guns-proud eyes seeking the menace of the land. 
Twelve boats streamed out like water snakes, crowded with khaki shapes, and there
All naked were the broken hills hung like a threat along the air.

Flash of alarm lights from the foe! A burst of rifle fire, and then
God help the women far away who pray at daybreak for their men!

Women in snug New Zealand homes, green cradled in the towering fern, 
Listening to little songs of hope day brought them in the pebbled burn. 
Women in slab huts far out West, women in city houses tall.
Winged Death with his avenging speed has a black message for you all.

Mothers of rosy English lads, in stately park or cottage home,
Amid the smell of breaking flowers that winter loosened from the loam.
For it was spring! The primrose lit the woodland with its pate gold flame, 
On blue bells sheeted on the Downs -- in paths where loved ones never came.

Wattle was budding on the boughs, later to break in scented spray,
But at Gallipoli blood red was the dark emblem of the day.

The sandstone cliffs rose sheer above the water's edge, and Chemin Dagh 
Stood like a king above them all; tangle of bills and bluffs led far
From Mudros Bay. Thick scrub to hide the wary sniper where the strange 
Old Castle fronts the Straits. Barbed wire and trenches now in range.

But from it all the Anzac men triumphant and unbeaten rose!
Laughter met Death and maiming shell, against the barrage of their foes. 

There was a lad just sixteen years, hit in the body, and he smiled.
Life! You had phials of courage filled to spur the spirit of that child.
Was he just British? Of the breed that sired our Soldiers? Fire raked hill 
Rubble and shrapnel's hell and steel -- up the scarred heights advancing still . . .

No brush can paint, and feeble grows the pen
To limn their splendour. God! BUT THESE WERE MEN.

First published in The Courier-Mail, 25 April 1934

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on April 25, 2014 8:36 AM.

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